When women’s basketball’s OUA quarterfinal game went into overtime last Saturday, head coach Dave Wilson thought his team would win.
The coach was still secure in his belief when Laurier Golden Hawks centre Whitney Ellenor sank a free throw with two seconds left in the first overtime to tie the game at 74-74.
The Gaels outscored Laurier 11-4 in the second extra period, coming away with an 85-78 victory and a spot in this weekend’s OUA Final Four.
“Honestly, our confidence rises when we head into overtime,” Wilson said. “For the last three years, we haven’t lost an overtime game. Our players feel that it’s our time.”
With the win, Queen’s now heads to the OUA Final Four in Windsor, where they’ll take on the third-seeded Ryerson Rams on Friday night. Joining the Gaels and Rams are the OUA’s top team, the Windsor Lancers, as well as the fifth-seeded Lakehead Thunderwolves.
As the lowest seed to advance to the semi-finals, the Gaels are underdogs at the Final Four. Wilson said the team isn’t fazed by that status — not after knocking off the second-ranked Golden Hawks in thrilling fashion.
“I think it’s always easier to play as the underdog,” he said. “It takes a lot of practice to play as the team that has the target on their back. That’s been a bit of a struggle for us when we started the season, when we were the defending Eastern champions.”
Wilson added that the OUA playoff bracket worked in the Gaels’ favour. They were hoping to take on the Golden Hawks in the post-season, since the two schools had played each other tight in recent years.
Queen’s fell behind early in the quarterfinal contest and trailed by as many as 14 points late in the second quarter, before cutting the lead to five by the midway break.
The Golden Hawks re-established their 14-point advantage four minutes into the second half, leading Wilson to call a timeout. After play resumed, the Gaels went on a 20-2 run and held the lead heading into the final quarter of regulation.
“Throughout the first three quarters, it was a game of runs — mostly theirs, and ours trying to keep the game close,” Wilson said. “After that, it became a game of back and forth. I think our largest lead we ever had was six, so mostly it was a one, two or three-point game the rest of the way through.”
After Ellenor’s made free throw at the end of the first overtime period, the tide of the game turned. Gaels third-year guard Emily Hazlett went on a tear, putting up six of Queen’s 11 points in the second overtime.
“We came out very confidently and it looked like Laurier might have been a little bit more tentative,” Wilson said. “We attacked the rim very well and got to the foul line early, and that allowed us to open up that lead.”
Fourth-year guard Jenny Wright led all Gaels’ scorers with 24 points, while third-year post Robyn Pearson posted a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Veteran wing Gemma Bullard and fifth-year guard Liz Boag also chipped in with 12 points on the night.
Queen’s struggled against the OUA’s three remaining teams this season. They lost all four games they played against Windsor, Ryerson and Lakehead, including two defeats to the Rams.
To make the CIS national championships, Wilson said the Gaels need to maintain their current high level of play.
“Right now, we’re starting to play our best basketball since October,” he said.
“Part of that is because we have our full lineup intact — which has only been intact for a couple of weeks now. I think we’re just starting to peak at the right time.”
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